Sisi tries to reassure Egyptians despite host of challenges

  • World
  • Monday, 23 Feb 2015

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi looks on during a visit to the border between Egypt and Libya, in this February 18, 2015 handout courtesy of the Egyptian Defence Ministry. REUTERS/Defence Ministry/Handout via Reuters

CAIRO (Reuters) - President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sought to reassure Egyptians on Sunday that he is in control and steering the country on the right path in the face of Islamist militancy in neighbouring Libya and the Sinai and economic challenges.

Sisi's speech was broadcast on prime time television and was interspersed with clips of him greeting leaders of wealthy Gulf Arab states, Western powers and Egyptian army officers.

His comments came after Islamic State militants beheaded up to 21 Egyptian Christians in neighbouring Libya -- bloodshed that provoked Egyptian airstrikes -- and one of the worst attacks on security forces in the Sinai in months.

"The strike hit 13 targets that had been studied accurately," said Sisi, adding that the Egyptian army was not an aggressor and the attack was necessary.

Sisi said Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, had offered military support to Cairo following the killing of Egyptians in Libya.

The former army chief dedicated a major portion of his speech to financial patrons United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, who backed his toppling of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against him.

Sisi said ties with those countries were still strong despite attempts by unnamed parties to divide the allies, a reference to a leaked audio recording that purported to show him and senior aides being derisive of rich Gulf donors.

"This support was the main reason why Egypt was able to persevere against all of the challenges and difficulties," said Sisi.

Aside from militants over the border in Libya, Sisi faces an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, where Islamic State's Egypt wing claimed responsibility for a series of attacks that killed over 30 members of the security forces in January.

"The army and police are exerting big efforts to regain complete control of the Sinai," said Sisi.

(Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Michael Georgy)

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